The Mubarak City Project: A Euro-Mediterranean Collaboration
by Maurizio Martinelli and Ayman El-Dessouki
Egypt's governmental development plan has placed great emphasis on privatization, free market policies and administrative reforms. These activities will clearly be affected by the rapid proliferation and use of information systems in government organizations, publicly owned companies, and private organizations in Egypt. This evolution requires the provision of technical expertise to handle, support and adapt these transferred technologies. In the last few years, many national governments, but also the European Union, have dedicated special attention to the enhancement of technical and scientific capabilities in developing nations, promoting joint research programmes with Mediterranean countries (like MEDCAMPUS, MEDA, INCO-DC).
Since December 1996, CNUCE-CNR is coordinating a project for collaboration with an Egyptian research centre, the newly constituted Informatics Research Institute (IRI). The Mubarak City Project is part of the bilateral agreement, signed in Cairo on 9 June 1991, between Italy and Egypt. The total budget of the project is about 3,5 million US$ and it is funded jointly by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and by the Egyptian Ministry for Scientific Research. The Italian grant is being mainly utilized to supply hardware and software equipment; to provide training activities for young IRI researchers in both Italian and Egyptian research institutes; to promote research projects with European partners; to organize joint international workshops; to sponsor the participation of Egyptian representatives in international conferences and seminars; and to provide technical assistance for the installation and development of the IRI network infrastructure. The Egyptian financial contribution is being utilized to cover the building and furnishing of IRI; the leased line for the Internet connection; local staff salaries and housing; ongoing research activities.
The Informatics Research Institute
IRI is part of the state scientific and technological park named Mubarak City for Scientific Research and Technological Applications (MCSRTA) founded in March 1993 and now under construction at New Borg El-Arab, 40 Km west of Alexandria. At present IRI is temporarily located in Alexandria, but the permanent building in New Borg El-Arab should be completed by the end of 1997. This new city is sited within the Alexandria and Dehira regions, where 40% of Egypt's national industries are located; about 1,000 companies exist around the city itself.
The intention is to make IRI a centre of excellence at both regional and international levels, playing an instrumental role in the development of Informatics in Egypt, the Middle East region and the Mediterranean region. The Institute should provide R&D services in the field of Informatics. It will build the experience necessary to provide technical consulting services, to carry out development projects for production and services organizations, to produce ad hoc software packages in the fields of manufacturing, cultural heritage, multimedia, artificial intelligence, and to participate in creating technical and scientific expertise in different areas of Informatics. This will be achieved through advanced training programmes,that aim at increasing the level of technical know-how of the Egyptian Informatics community, and by helping to design, develop, maintain and support selected advanced systems. IRI should also participate in the establishment of spin-off R&D companies, signing contracts and protocols with local and international organizations.
IRI is currently formed by three departments:
- Graphics and Multimedia
- Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
- Engineering Applications and CAD-CAM systems.
Two additional departments are in now being constituted:
- Networking and Distributed Systems
- Simulation, Modelling and Decision Support Systems.
At present IRI has 16 staff members but 8 new Research Assistants for the two new departments will be hired shortly.
The main activities planned for this two year project have been subdivided into three different stages:
- Establishment of the IRI infrastructures: This stage consists in the selection and installation of the hardware and software for the networking and multimedia laboratories; cabling material to set up the Local Area Network and the Internet connection; office equipment. The installation and configuration of the equipment, of the IRI LAN and of the Internet connection (at present a leased line has been installed between IRI and the Electronics Research Institute in Cairo), as well as the setting up of the main IRI network and information systems, will be completed before the end of 1997.
- Training activities: IRI technical staff will be trained in Italy for a total of 18 m/m. Training will concentrate on networking, network security, multimedia (with particular attention to applications in the Cultural Heritage field), and computer graphics. The training activities will also cover system and administration management issues, problem solving, network services.
- Research collaborations: Funds are allocated for Egyptian researchers to attend international conferences and meetings. In addition, an international workshop will be organized at IRI during 1998 aiming at providing an international forum for the presentation and discussion of topics in the fields of Networking and Multimedia. These activities should help IRI to keep up-to-date with the advanced technologies, and provide an opportunity to establish fruitful partnerships and exchange researchers with other international institutes.
The project also aims at promoting the participation of IRI in EU programmes, in particular in view of the launching of the new phase of MEDA programmes. IRI's involvement in such activities will certainly enhance its research capabilities and technical expertise and will help the Institute to achieve partial financial independence. For further information, see the Mubarak City Project home page: http://soi.cnr.it/~mubarak
Maurizio Martinelli - CNUCE-CNR
Tel: +39 50 593324
Ayman El-Dessouki - Informatics Research Institute
Tel: +20 2 4341363